Tiger Woods isn't teeing it up this week at the RBC Canadian Open. It's hard to blame someone still shaking off the rust after back surgery—not to mention a disappointing 69th-place finish at The Open Championship last week.
A rather strong field flocks to Quebec for one of the most underrated stops on the PGA Tour. With the reliance golf has on Woods and a refusal by casual sports fans to embrace other players, though, Woods is the top storyline.
ESPN sportscaster Rick Reilly took to TBS' Conan on Tuesday evening to discuss his new book, which includes tales of Woods' notorious tipping habits.
Reilly asserts that you need "a court order" to get Woods' wallet open, contrasting the outrageous generosity Phil Mickelson apparently exhibits in his tipping. The full video can be seen at TeamCoco.com.
Arguably one of the most successful sportswriters of his generation, it comes as no surprise that Reilly's testimony to Conan O'Brien brought this well-known Woods issue into the limelight once again.
Take this 2011 report from the Miami New Times' Lee Klein, listing the 10 worst celebrity tippers. Woods, as he's often been in the Official World Golf Ranking throughout his legendary career, was No. 1.
The unfortunate aspect of Reilly's seemingly innocent—albeit revealing and provocative—talk show appearance is that it's overshadowing more positive, exciting developments in the sport.
Rory McIlroy, the next young hope to perhaps challenge Woods' greatness, just won his third major at Hoylake—where Woods won his last British Open. An American star in Rickie Fowler has finished in the top five of all three majors this season and gave McIlroy a run for his money in pursuit of the Claret Jug.
On top of this week's tournament, the game should have plenty of momentum with its most promising young talent in McIlroy moving within one leg of completing the career Grand Slam at age 25. Only Woods and the man whose all-time major record he's chasing, Jack Nicklaus, have done that so soon.
Golf Channel's Ryan Burr confirmed that, and his colleague Justin Ray noted how strong Fowler's performances have been, too:
Rory McIlroy third player since the first Masters in 1934 to have won three or more majors at age 25 joining Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.— Ryan Burr (@RyanBurr) July 20, 2014
Rickie Fowler: 1st player to finish in top-5 in each of season's 1st 3 majors since Tiger Woods in 2005.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 20, 2014
Apparently no one cares.
The proof is in the pudding. According to Yahoo Sports' Shane Bacon, ratings for the last round of this year's British Open were the lowest since 2009, when ESPN started broadcasting the championship. It was a 26 percent drop from Phil Mickelson's 2013 triumph at Muirfield.
Maybe that had to do with the fact that Woods fell far out of contention, needing a birdie on the par-five 18th hole in the second round to make the cut on the number after opening with a stellar 69. That score wound up being his final place in the field—Woods' worst finish in a major as a professional.
One could argue the bigger story involving Woods recently was the shot he took at McIlroy. Woods essentially dismissed any possible comparison between himself and McIlroy, opting to use Mickelson as a more fitting analogy, per ESPN.com's Farrell Evans:
When [Rory] gets it going, he gets it going. When it gets going bad, it gets going real bad. It's one or the other. If you look at his results, he's kind of that way. Very similar to what Phil [Mickelson] does. He has his hot weeks and he has his weeks where he's off. And that's just the nature of how he plays the game. It's no right way or wrong way. But it's just the nature of how he plays.
Woods is 214th in the FedEx Cup points standings, needing to ascend to the top 125 in order to qualify for the playoffs. If he doesn't, a spot on the USA Ryder Cup team as an at-large pick by captain Tom Watson seems like a long shot.
Hopefully the final major, the PGA Championship, offers a dramatic finish, since McIlroy, Martin Kaymer at the U.S. Open and Bubba Watson at the Masters all ran away to victories. Without Woods being a factor, it's just not quite as exciting for those who grew up watching him dominate.
Reminding the general public of his habits as a tipper isn't exactly good press for Woods as he tries to pick up the pieces of his game. Given how stubborn Woods has been over the years in reconstructing his swing multiple times and refusing to yield to multiple injuries along the way, don't expect that to change.
It's Woods' personality—a refusal to give anyone else an advantage—that has made him so successful inside the ropes. Away from the course, and in restaurants in particular, perhaps he's not as much of a hit.